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Tito Villalba will miss Atlanta United’s match vs. Chicago Fire

Atlanta is down two of it’s top attacking players

MLS: Atlanta United FC at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Tito Villalba picked up a lower body injury over the international break in his first camp with the Paraguayan national team, and Tata Martino told media Friday that he will miss Atlanta United’s match Sunday at 3:30 p.m. against the Chicago Fire.

It’s unfortunate news for Atlanta United and Martino, who were already trying to figure out how to replace Miguel Almiron in the starting lineup after the Paraguayan midfielder left Atlanta’s last match against the New England Revolution with a pulled hamstring.

Questions now abound for Martino on how to set up his team, as he’s yet to manage a match in his Atlanta United career without both Almiron and Villalba on the field. The most obvious solution for Martino to replace Almiron is to swap in Ezequiel Barco, who deputized in the same role against New England.

The more puzzling question is how Villalba will be replaced, because it’s hard to see another like-for-like attacking swap with someone off the bench (looking at you, Andrew Carleton). It seems more likely that a Kevin Kratz or Franco Escobar could crack the starting XI, but it would require midfield to be reworked a bit. Whatever personnel Martino decides to go with, it seems certain that both Julian Gressel and Darlington Nagbe will be playing further up the pitch to help support Josef Martinez without two of the team’s most dynamic players.